“No story can be wrong, only more memorable or less.” - Ashes Of The Sun
Ashes Of The Sun is a riveting tale of political intrigue set early within the Magic the Gathering multiverse. Those familiar with older MtG stories will recognize the setting of Dominaria and the familiar names of The Mirtinn Mountains, The Voda Sea, and The Ordavan Empire, but these details are more of a nod to fans rather than required knowledge going into the book. Rogers did a masterful job of carving out his own little place within this giant setting while it was still young. While newer novels in the setting focus on the titanic battles of powerful mages and the fates of multiple planes of existence that hang in the balance, Ashes takes a more personal, in-depth look at life in a fantasy setting. The novel is focused on the political, scientific, and religious upheaval of the Mirtinn Minotaurs and the human woman caught up in their machinations.
The plot of Ashes is akin to that of a Greek tragedy, with major themes of Loss and Acceptance. Our heroine, Ayesh, has lost her homeland and all that she holds dear and embarks on a journey to spread the tales of her birthplace and preserve its legacy. She grows weary hearing tales of the lost country of Oneah retold, warped and aggrandized. Disheartened, she begins her secondary task: to kill every goblin she crosses or die trying. Her plans abruptly change when she encounters the minotaur, Zhanrax, who captures her in an attempt to curry favor within the complex political workings of his home. She becomes embroiled in their political upheaval—at first only as a prisoner and bargaining tool for Zhanrax’s clan—and quickly learns that, while dangerous, these minotaurs have provided her with a way to preserve the legacy of her home and launches herself headlong into their scheming.
Right out of the gate, Rogers distinguishes his work with perfect examples of “show don’t tell” writing. Our heroine is never described in narration. All of her character is developed through action and dialogue. You learn how strong, proud, and calculating she is from her opening dialogue, from her methodical, practiced combat against savage goblins, and from her diligent and deliberate negotiations and teaching. Most every character manages to be well fleshed out and deep in this same way without bogging down the story with unnecessary details. The action scenes are few and far between, but they are well written with the reader easily being able to keep track of each character and their movements. While the scenes of political maneuvering are numerous, they are enthralling enough that they never feel tedious or repetitive. What results is a fast-paced look into this microcosm of a much bigger setting. And while this is but a flash in the pan of history for a small part of this world, Rogers manages to make every choice the characters make feel momentous. You feel for the characters and want to get to know them more.
Sadly, my one gripe about the book is that it is very brief. While one of the most enjoyable books I have read in recent years, it is very short, coming in just under 300 pages. I cannot recommend this book enough as just a quick, one off-read, but if you are looking for something more substantial and long term to occupy your time, I would look somewhere else.